Abundance & Losing It: A Shamefully True Story

I’ve been doing a LOT of inner work on my money mindset lately.  I’m growing my business in ambitious proportions, and we’ve been enjoying a quality of life that’s really pretty excellent for the past few years, even with the difficulties that we may have.

In short, I really love my life.  

People seem to think that earning more money is the best/quickest way to change your life profoundly, tho this isn’t actually true.  You might be able to afford new things, new superficial markers of recognition…but the truth is, earning more money generally just brings you MORE of what you’re already experiencing.  If you have shitty relationships, for example – having more money will ensure you have more shitty relationships, or else, that your shitty relationships get even worse.  If you eat crap now, you are not likely to switch overnight to an all-organic whole-foods diet…even if you insist it’s “only” money that prevents you from eating healthier.

If you don’t love yourself when you’re broke, you won’t automatically find the wherewithal to start a yoga practice, meet new, uplifting friends, and find your authentic self when you’re richer.  It’s just not true.  

Money is an amplifier – not a magic ticket to awesomeness.  

You’ve got to add your own bit of awesome, regardless of how much you make – to experience awesomeness in any capacity.  

 

So, I know I have a lot of “baggage” with money.  I was a spoiled only child, and money was used to manipulate and dis-empower me – by my parents, and later, by my ex-husband.  

I feel like there’s certain stories in our past, for all of us, that need to be told – released, like a catharsis – to be able to heal, grow, and move past them.  

This is one of them – a terribly humiliating story to share…  

 

It’s the story of how I blew nearly 100 grand in less than a year.  

 

(Sounds positively appalling, doesn’t it?  Toe-curlingly irresponsible.  Ridiculous.  Definitely, absolutely shameful.)

I feel like the things I write create this image of me as someone who’s always lived in poverty – but that’s actually not the case. I had a relatively “rich” childhood.  When I moved out at 19, I *thought* we were poor. Then I got divorced and realized a whole new level of poverty.  I got remarried, but not “back on my feet” – not by a longshot.  

Then, something huge happened:

My husband finally got a settlement check, for a legal case that we wish hadn’t even had to happen. His share was a lump sum of over $90K.

We were so broke we had to borrow the money for gasoline to drive an hour away to find a bank to cash the check. Our own bank wouldn’t honor it cause we were so overdrawn – and we were so jaded and distrustful of banks at that point, we felt terrified to even open a new account to deposit the money into.

 

It actually felt safer to drive home with so much cash it barely fit in our glovebox.

 

We KNEW what this meant: the END of all our bullshit money troubles. We would never have to tell the kids no about petty things again. We would get out of debt; buy a proper home, a new vehicle that wasn’t slowly dying, finally honor our hobbies and pursue our interests – we could travel.

We would take a trip to the coast, see the ocean, stay in a beach cottage, and give the kids amazing, fun memories to cherish. FREEDOM…such sweet escape, we dreamed of.

 

We did pay off our credit cards. I put just what I needed to pay them all off into a new account, and did so with a few quick phonecalls…boy, did that feel great.

We kept our clunker car for backup, found a modest but nice minivan that fit our family, and paid cash for that too. The sales associate didn’t know whether to peg us as crazy conspiracy theorists or bank robbers, when we showed up to buy that van.

We even found the perfect home – older, smallish, out in the country, far away from friends and shopping – but it had everything we truly needed. Space for the kids, a great yard and garden, etc. We imagined, even if we had no furniture or stuff, how wonderful it would be to never fear the possibility of losing our home for failure to pay every month – because we had enough to buy the house outright.

Incredibly, we were the first ones to notice the little gem, and we made our offer – they accepted!  We even signed a contract on it, but then – I freaked out.  In Texas, you have three days to nullify a contract on a home, for whatever reason.  

 

I was paralyzed with fear.  I realized that after paying closing costs and moving expenses, we might not even be able to afford to buy the one other big-ticket thing I really felt we needed: a nice mattress.

We’d been sleeping on the floor for over a year, living in project apartments.  I gave up most of my furniture in the divorce, and we’d yet to replace any of it.  We were constantly scrambling, and It seemed like there was never even enough money to buy an air mattress and pump, in all that time…

 

I was mentally and emotionally destroyed.

 

We voided the contract.  Passed up the house at my insistence (bolstered by my parents’ bad advice).

Instead, we decided to rent a place from my FIL, who turned out to be not as interested in philanthropy as I initially assumed. I deluded myself that he’d eventually sell us the house at a loss, since he didn’t want to live in it.

 

I decorated the place inside and out. It felt wonderful, like I was creating a personal sanctuary for my family that could never be destroyed or taken away.  We made loads of repairs, bought furniture, even installed a pool.

We got cats, which we’d always wanted but couldn’t afford to feed or take care of before.

Then the bills started rolling in: The house seemed to lack insulation; I was flabbergasted at the $450-$600+ electricity bills, when we’d previously been paying just over $100/month. The pool upkeep cost tons of money every week.

 

Our “friends” expected us to entertain, and we did. Barbecues and parties…we drank a lot at that house – first because it was fun to revel in not having to worry – and then, because we WERE worried.

 

My FIL asked us to either pay double or move out. He could charge someone over twice what we were having extreme trouble paying him every month.

At first, we thought we could take what money we had left and use it as a down payment to buy another modest home, and finance the rest. However, our previous credit and distrust of banks proved to be our undoing.  We got financed, but for an amount just barely enough to buy a home at all.

In two months, we offered on SIX homes, and were outbid every time by some opportunist investor (whom I referred to as ASSHOLES at the time) with cash to spare. I cried every time we got the bad news.

 

My husband’s illness got worse. Seizures at work. He had to quit his job. The credit cards that I’d almost cut up started to be used in constant succession for everything, as I had no other way to buy groceries.

It got colder, and we resorted to buying firewood to use in the “decorative” fireplace – because we were terrified to turn up the heat another degree and be slammed with another $600+ utility bill we couldn’t pay.

 

The kids and I cried bitterly, very hard, when we had to rehome the cats. I still sometimes have trouble mustering much feeling for the dog and snake we have now. I shut off that part of myself – the animal lover.  Intangible losses…

 

I was in utter disbelief. HOW could this be happening to us?

We tried so hard to make the right decisions, but my damned fear brought me right back again. We SWORE we’d never go back to this life again.

 

My husband found some apartments that offered reduced rent to low income applicants. We got back on food stamps. We sold many, many things at a pathetic, desperate loss – things that I’d bought with a satisfied smile on my face, “knowing” I’d never have to sell my things to make ends meet again…

Here we were, in the very hell we thought we’d escaped forever. Ironically, it felt about 100 times worse, being here after experiencing “somewhere else”.

 

I had to ask my parents for immediate help with our bills until assistance kicked in.

I had to swallow my pride and admit, with extreme nausea, that we were down to less than $400, when less than a year ago we had had $90K.

 

Just writing these words is so hard for me, even all this time later. Hot tears prick my eyes, and a wave of deep, disgusted shame is coursing through me still.

 

My deepest fear about earning more money is that I’ll just lose it all again somehow. It’s not even an unfounded fear – for I’ve lived through this nauseatingly, shameful scenario in real life. We had the funds we needed to make just about anything happen – and we utterly, completely, profoundly FAILED.

 

I resolve to change my story.

I AM worth more than this.

 

I deserve more than what I’ve been receiving…and I KNOW that I will never let fear hold me back from making the right decisions again.

 

I am a good steward of money – I will do wonderful things with it, for mySelf, my family, and for others as well.

The more I have, the more I can responsibly give back to the world. With great power comes great responsibility.

 

I release this story of the past, and embrace my new reality of financial abundance, prosperity, and responsibility!

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My Journey to and Beyond Vegetarianism, Part 2

So in my last post in this series, I left off at the point where I was a complacent vegan who felt “pretty good” about my choices from an ethical and a nutritional standpoint, and was more or less satisfied with my diet for the time being.

Then, gradually, I lost passion about veganism.  Now, I was never one of those street-corner supporters, denouncing the evils of flesh food to anyone who would listen–but from the start, I had been quietly passionate about lessening animal cruelty and helping the environment–and being vegan was the most tangible way I thought that I could effect positive change.

Somewhere along the line, I lost passion for most other things in my life, as well.  I was in the grips of a deep depression.  I realized that I wanted out of my marriage at the time, and felt that I was trapped in a vortex of negativity and fear.  It took monumental efforts to shift my thinking and move forward from this dark place.  Naturally, things that were not of the utmost importance fell by the wayside during this time.

As I picked up the pieces, slowly, I started to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t have the finances to return to the way I had been eating before, when I was “healthier”.  I talked a lot about my vexing relationship with food at this time in my life here, over a year ago.

Truthfully, we ate pretty well after we mastered the learning curve of having a very strict budget to contend with.  But it was a far cry from my previous, convenient, “fast-veg” diet.

That year–the year I got remarried and had my third baby–I learned to cook spaghetti sauce from scratch, and to cherish the feeling of a full stomach.  I had to re-train myself to eat things that I had worked so hard NOT to eat, or want, or even like.  During that year, I think what kept me on the path of vegetarianism more than anything else was that it was cheap.

I developed a really rotten philosophy about food.  It was arguably necessary at the time, but it’s not easy to just reboot your internal programming and change your diet back to a healthy one after eating addictive crap for over a year.

I also learned a lot about how I regarded food.  I was never a good cook, and mostly I didn’t care about how my food tasted.  For all my high-minded idealism, I mostly just ate whatever was convenient that fulfilled the label of “vegan”, to shut my stomach up when it complained.  When I met my now-husband, however, he showed me a completely different way of thinking about food–one that I am still struggling to embrace after all my negative conditioning!

My husband now is an excellent cook.  He has a passion for good, fresh food.  He’s respectful of vegetarian and vegan diets, but he’s an omnivore.  One of the first days we spent together, he cooked me an unbelievable feast.  I thought, when I met him, that he might end up as a star chef one day–and I still do.

Ironically, the foods that my husband prepares are sometimes full of dairy, fat or sugar–but I feel differently about them.  His intentions of what he is trying to create–something beyond simple sustenance–cause a sort of alchemy to happen to his food.  He is able to infuse the food he cooks with a sort of energetic vibe that makes it fortifying and life-affirming, in spite of what the nutritional facts might say about it.

So I reveled in things I had never allowed myself to try before–like cream cheese, white sauces, homemade spring rolls, and more.  As money became less of a problem, we enjoyed our food even more.  Cooking a big dinner for the holidays has become joyful and amazing–instead of a drudgery, or even something to avoid altogether, like when I was a child.

However, as time went on, my husband’s health issues got worse and worse, but not in the typical “you eat the standard american diet” ways.

Then I met Catherine.  Catherine is my very best friend–and a cancer survivor.  She is passionate about food, but in a slightly different way than my husband is.  She describes her diet as “clean”–and it was very impressive to meet someone who ate like she did, especially to me.  Mostly organics, fresh fruit and veggies, nothing with more than six pronounceable ingredients on the label (yes, really!).

Although, I admit that I felt very uncomfortable when I saw that she ate organic dairy.  Oh no!  Dairy is so unhealthy for a cancer survivor!  I thought.  I never considered that there was a reason beyond that she wasn’t hungry, when she politely declined the pasta I fixed when she came over to visit.  But Catherine blew my mind when I learned that she regarded grains as unhealthy.  What???  That’s the foundation of my diet!  And you try not to eat them at all??.

She told me about Paleo and Primal diets, and I had never heard of such a thing.  Previously, I had considered the diet options of man as being on a sliding scale or continuum, with from least healthy/enlightened to most healthy/enlightened–and you moved up or down that scale mostly related to how much meat or dairy you ate.  Raw veganism was, in my mind, the pinnacle of dietary health, and something that mere mortals like myself were mostly incapable of.

Then we started putting the pieces together, and we found that my husband has celiac disease.  He is severely allergic to wheat, among other things.

Whaaat??The foundation of my diet was being implicated again!  I still had a lot to learn.

Here’s a link to Part 3 of this series.

Evolution of dietary thought: Does the past shape the future?

Hello all!  In the time since I’ve written last, I’ve been thinking a lot about my diet, and making some changes that are long-overdue for my health and well-being.  I want to write a series of posts discussing the evolution of my diet in both thought and action, from junk-food junkie to aspiring raw vegan.  (Back off, food police–I did say “aspiring“!  It’s an evolution, after all!)

When I was a kid, I ate lots of junk–whatever I wanted, really.  One of the curiosities of being the only child of fairly well-off, older parents, was that I got to eat nearly anything I pleased, with no regard to cost, and only scant regard to nutritional value.  I was nearly a teenager before it finally occurred to me that those numbers on the grocery tags and receipts actually meant something–that some people in the world couldn’t afford to buy anything they wanted at the grocery store.  I always realized that things like toys or nice clothes weren’t affordable for everyone, but food??  How could people charge so much money for something so basic and necessary?  (Insert Socialist cracks here for best effect 😉

As a teen, I was exposed to vegetarianism thanks to my mother, and with a combination of ethical, environmental, and health concerns, I felt very deeply that this was the path of higher consciousness.  My diet and my unique brand of spirituality have always been intertwined.  That’s one reason why I’ve always had trouble with “fitting in” to any traditional/organized religion, and why I eventually gave up organized religion like a painfully restrictive pair of shoes.

Naturally, over the past 16 years, my diet has gone through many “incarnations”, both ethical and nutritional in focus.  After the initial hump of figuring out what I could and could not eat (and a lot of microwave popcorn and raw cucumber!) at age 14, I started forcing myself to try new foods.  I gradually expanded my knowledge of veg nutrition and cooking, and my diet improved accordingly.  At age 20, I became a strict vegan (no meat, cheese, eggs, milk, butter, honey, leather, ETC), and stayed that way for over 2.5 years.

Somewhere along the line, I learned how to bake delicious vegan cookies and fry up some wicked tofu cutlets.  😉  However, finances (or lack thereof) did generally get in the way of “optimal eating” as I then defined it.  I managed to remain fairly careful about what I ate until my divorce, at age 25.

For a long time after that, I was in the sort of financial position where I had to eat whatever was cheap and plentiful.  I bought the healthy, whole stuff (fresh fruits and veggies) for my kids and ate whatever I could get ahold of cheaply and/or in large quantities.  We started receiving WIC benefits, and I found myself with way more dairy products than I was comfortable eating–but it was all we had, and so I ate it thankfully and had to reprogram my brain to accept things that were previously disgusting to me as food!  Ramen with cheese melted over it still holds a dually nasty/comforting impression in my mind.

At the same time, I also developed a sort of “hoarding mentality” when it came to pantry foods, which I still tend toward.  Our pantry is basically a supplemental back-up plan–a place that stores things I know I can make a week or more’s worth of meals out of, IF we have to.  A sound strategy, to be sure, but one that is fear-based; since for me, it’s grounded not in a place of frugality or prudence, but in the panicky, ill feeling of “What if we can’t afford enough fresh fruits and veggies this month?”

Under these conditions, I taught myself to cope with eating scarcely any fresh fruits and veggies, and large amounts of processed grains and dairy products–a far cry from my previous habits.  After two months of extreme hardship, we started receiving food stamps–and I gained 30 pounds in the first two months (yes, really).  It was so unbelievably comforting to know that we would all be able to eat until we felt satisfied–and honestly, when you’re that poor, you don’t have many other true comforts available. 

Now, I think living through that sort of experience can deeply throw off your inner equilibrium, no matter what your previous diet was.  Even as our circumstances improved, I found that I had very little energy or drive to be concerned about my diet.  I stayed veg, but instead of striving for nutritional excellence or ethical congruency as I had before, I just ate whatever was available and tasty so long as it didn’t contain meat.  It’s as if I turned off a part of my consciousness or applied a mental filter about what I was consuming.  I didn’t have the emotional energy, the inner strength, to question that deeply into my lifestyle choices at that point.  If I did, I would only find myself facing insurmountable challenges–or so they seemed at the time.

Just because we could finally make ends meet didn’t mean I could go trying raw veganism or eating a high organic diet–we didn’t have the money for me to care that much, and it was depressing.  So I closed that part of myself off, and approached eating as a necessary evil, for the most part.

This is just one of the many areas of “collateral damage” that hardships such as divorce and prolonged poverty can bring, of course.  I lost my inner power for a time, and with it, the ability to live with full consciousness and compassion.

So there.  I’ve briefly skimmed the surface of my dietary journey over the past 16 years.  Later on, I will have a post discussing the sorts of things that led me to vegetarianism (no soapboxing, I promise!), and then, a discussion of optimal nutrition that isn’t even veg-specific!  But you’ll have to excuse me, I have a smoothie waiting to be made…  😉